Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lesson 4: Junior College Conferences - A Personalized Plan Approach

     Prior to becoming a school counselor, I worked in admissions for two local colleges.  I enjoyed traveling all over the state of NY and not only visiting high schools, but also doing college fairs in the most unusual places: from ice rinks to malls!  I got to see the best of NY that otherwise I would never had been able to see!
     In meeting with teenagers, I found myself describing the programs the college offered, but not as a sales person trying to get them to apply to the college.  I was more interested in learning about the student's interests, what made them think creatively and guiding them to the right colleges that were surrounding my table.  You wonder why I ended up coming to the other side!  It was about the right fit!  If it happened to be the college I represented great, if not, why would I force the issue?
     I have lived by this philosophy as a school counselor in doing the Junior Conferences.  It is about the right fit and differentiation!  How do you find the right fit for so many teenagers on a caseload without being robotic in the process?  Stop, think, and organize yourself as a school counselor.
          * It is about getting to know the student without having to have the transcript as the leading topic of conversation.
                  - Have you seen the student in an athletic event at school?
                  - Did you see the theater or musical production the student was involved in?
                  - While walking down the hall, did you run into the student collaborating with friends in the library, cafeteria or just engaged in something different?
                  -  Did any of the classrooms or bulletin boards have work done by the student?
                  - The student shares they do crafts, did you ask to see some of their work?  Same with photo, painting, written pieces, etc?
          * It is about knowing the culture of college campus and thinking about the student on your caseload that might be match the college.
          * It is not about the bumper sticker on the car or a report from tools that makes us look good as school counselors.  I understand that stakeholders believe in the rankings and placement.  Throught the needs of the district stakeholders and the students, remember to remind yourself:  It is the about the right fit and the Whole Child approach!
     Let's start.  Think of the benefits of the term right fit from a data perspective and a department discussion.  As a Director of K12 School Counseling, my first data point is to look at the number of students who return after they graduate and ask to transfer.  That should be a red flag if numbers are high and there are no reasons behind it.  I am sensitive to those who transfer because of economic issues.  I don't count them.  Once you have your data, then bring it forth to the department to begin a discussion of reviewing the college process.
     Another source of data is the National Student Alumni Clearinghouse.  There is a fee involved but the results can open your eyes as to where are your alumni graduating from if they are graduating at all!  I had the report run since the class of 2003 to present.  What we found was astonishing.  Our four year and two year placements listed on the HS Profile we sent out matched the report.  However, in a local meeting, I heard counselors state that their HS Profiles showed 96% or so going to college, but about 70% actually graduating college based on the Clearinghouse report for their schools.  It leads me to ask the following questions:
             1) As school counselors, do we have a transition lesson for high school students in preparing for the academics, social/emotional and college/career readiness?
             2) What support are provided to alumni who may want to return to their school counselor and ask about the college process all over again?
             3) Are we providing the best program to support the right fit and having the honest discussions needed on admissions and financial aid?
      My comments are not to insult anyone, but to support the work being done and enhance programs by asking questions that I would ask at my own placement.  It is about the student and not the profile or reports!  We look better to our stakeholders if we can show the data on the right fit!  Data can also support the opportunities for the need to visit college campus and go on tours!
     Another source of data that can assist is running the numbers of college reps coming to your school yearly.  It is a habit of mine to do so.  I look at how many reps have come to the school in a year and have compiled such numbers every year.  I then look at where students are looking to apply to and if the rep has not come to visit the school, I reach out to them sending an open invitation.   Connect, connect....even if they do not come by the year I reach out, I continue to invite them for the following year!
     Now, let's focus on the studentL the Whole Child Approach.  It is the Junior College meeting.  I have one period to reach the student and parents, if in attendance, to be able to draw up a college list.  The department has access to Naviance, College Board, ACT and other web based tools on an ongoing basis.  This time, I do not use any of the above.  It is an initial conversation focused on the following questions:
             1) What are some of your hobbies or activities after school?  Do you plan on continuing those after high school?
             2)  Are you comfortable raising your hand in a class of 200 students?  What if you are being taught by a TA, would you ask a question?
             3) Do you like to go to NYC?  Or would you rather be in a more suburban area similar to the location of your high school?  Why or why not?
             4)  What have been your favorite classes and your least favorite?  What do you like about the classes you state are favorite?
             5)  Tell me about something you learned that you felt made an impact on you?  Why?
     Certainly among the questions, I ask about possible interest areas (not majors as it scares them), testing, teacher recommendations and the essay topics.  I suggest summer connections to shadow someone they might know who are in the area, or just interview that person to get knowledge of their skills and activities.  I stop after 40 minutes and give them homework: reach out to the teachers to ask for recommendations, begin completing the resume, and research the college lists they get from me.  As they leave, I set up a follow up meeting to check on their progress, but given different caseload sizes, you may want to use email or journaling.
     In addition to the above conversations, the timeline brochure is sent out for the Juniors through an email attachment in December.  The following is the one sent to Seniors in the Fall to remind them where we left off and keep them engaged.  Feel free to adapt to your school.

     Am I an expert?  Not really.  The working environment is different for all.  I am a dedicated school counselor!  I just think of the Whole Child perspective and use resources to let the student own the process while I guide.  There is enough chaos with all of the media discussions around the process, so why increase the tension with a robotic process?  We use Career Cruising to have students in grades 9 and 10 enter their educational plans (they copy from transcripts) and search areas of interests.  We use Naviance to do the resume and college process.  Tools are resources for all of us to use in guiding students.  Data shows the importance of spending more time with students to discuss their personalized learning plans and post-secondary plans.  With the right discussions, the right research, students can find the right fit!

Additional Resources:
    National Student Clearinghouse
    MyRoad - MyPlan lesson from CollegeBoard


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lesson 3: Balancing Life

Lesson 3: Balancing Life

     Last week, I took a break from lessons to pose the question of what do school counselors do?  A time for a reflection and motivation to get organized on tasks and activities you may be engaged in.  I recalled a long time ago a school counselor had utilized a creative way to incorporate a visual of balancing activities.  I have written a lesson to be used in the classroom and can be adapted to any level, but I also would challenge school counselors to do this activity in their office, department meeting or as a format to organize their activities by domain.

     To begin, I tied the lesson to Health/PE as it goes well with the Wellness theme.  Keeping students balanced and reducing anxiety can assist with completing homework, getting organized and destressing!  First, begin by either purchasing, creating or borrowing a balance.  Then follow the lesson as described in the the lesson creator visual below.  The lesson also has some ideas for assessment and monitoring student growth.


     You will also need to provide students with an exemplar to do at home and return to you.  Below is the best scale visual for the follow up activity.  You may also want to get sample of planners for students to use to list the homework, for example, in order of priority as mentioned in the lesson.

     I found the free scale clip art below that can be downloaded and placed on a Word document to have students go home and practice balancing homework.  Remember to tell them to place all of their homework on the left side and as it is completed, cross it off, and move it to the right side!

     For those who try this out, please let us know how the lesson worked and what changes you may have made!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

 What Do You Do?

     I recently read through my 2008 dissertation.  Why?  I wanted to review what I had found about the Role of the School Counselor then, and where are we now, six years later.  Very little has changed...Here is what I wrote as a piece of the literature review: 

     "Throughout history, the role of the professional school counselor has evolved with every decade. During the early 20th century, school counselors focused on providing students with vocational guidance, assessment and academic placement. In the middle of the century, providing personal and social counseling services while supporting students with holistic development became the role of school counselors. In the most recent phase, special education services, parent-teacher consultation, and coordination of student academic programs were integrated (Gysbers & Henderson, 2002) into the school counselor’s set of responsibilities. Continuous change in the role of school counselors over the years has caused school counselors to struggle with a common definition of practice."

     I then posted on the Facebook page a question related to school counselors and data.  Most of the responses shared that school counselors were too overwhelmed to track data and define their roles in their placements.  I kept pondering on the responses of being overwhelmed and wondering if school counselors had a format in which they could educate administrators on the accurate role of the school counselor?  It reminded me that during budget seasons school counselors are the first to be cut.  Once we are gone, then folks remember what we do and the impact our programs have on the students.  Why waut until then and not take action now?

   My first suggestion is to begin asking if your district has a job description for the school counselor?  No?  Take time to create one.  Here are some resources that can help you define the job description:


   Organize the job description into different categories: Credentials required, who to report to, and break down the tasks and responsibilites into the three school counseling domains.  Think of the comprehensive school counseling model and identify the tasks as related to academic, personal/social and college/career development.  Remember to always have an area of assessment/evaluation listing who will be responsible in the school counselor evaluation process,  but also what tool will be used.

    Once completed, make sure it is on the website, submitted to the stakeholders and always updated!   Remember, has a built in template for counselors to use to keep their job descriptions up to date and visible!

    Let's share best practice!  If you have a job description, feel free to share a link or file so others can see and get motivated to create one!!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lesson 2:  Incorporating Social Emotional Themes with Math

     This past week on the School Counselor Central Facebook page, I posted a visual from Creativity in Therapy Blog that was a pie chart on different emotions.  I thought it would be a unique lesson to collaborate with Math.  School counselors seem to have more entrance into English, Social Studies, PE, Health, and Specials, but finding a theme and activity that would match up with Math is rare!  

     How can school counselors collaborate with Math teachers?  The Math Common Core Standards states that in the practical math application students should: " Be able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationship using tools such as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts...."

     Prior to the day's lesson, ask the Math teacher to give the students an assignment to keep record of all of the feelings students experience throughout the day until the next time the class meets.  The day the school counselor goes in to do the lesson, explain to the class that they will be learning how to graph percentages by using the emotions as documented per the HW assignment. 

    Provide students with the blank paper pie chart,, or students can create a pie chart online through the following site:  Either method is fine depending on the technology availability.

    Have students look at their list of emotions and begin by categorizing them into what portion of their day did they feel happy, sad, nervous, confused, tired, etc...Meet with the Math teacher ahead of time to determine proportions and relationships that would be ideal for this lesson.  At the end of the lesson, students should have a visual pie chart of their tracked emotions.

    As part of the assessment, a completed pie chart is evidence of task.  However, as a school counselor, I would add another piece which is to discuss when the largest piece of the pie chart was experienced and what triggered it, as well as how was it resolved.  I would also incorporate another assignment to have the students chart on a line or bar graph their emotions and time of the day.  Is there any relationship?  What an interesting idea!  Think about it as it would take a different direction that can support the needed interventions for certain students!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year and Welcome to the SCC Blog

           For the past year, School Counselor Central has been growing as the only web based program to support school counselors.  In addition to the tool, we have created a Facebook site and a Pinterest set of boards that provide information on different topics to assist in developing a comprehensive school counseling program. We have supported our professional community with articles posted on Twitter.
           Today we begin a new venture and will be bringing a blog to expand on ideas posted in each of the sites above.  Our goal is to enhance some of the topics we list, develop it into lessons or activities, connect the idea to the National Standards for School Counseling and provide insight into data analysis.

After all School Counselor Central Aligns Program and Practice to Results!

Being the first day of 2014, it seems appropriate for a reflection on past ideas shared and how they can be incorporated into the school counseling program.  This blog will post weekly ideas as lessons or activities.  I will utilize the School Counselor Central lesson writer to make sure that the lesson/activity is appropriately aligned to the ASCA National Standards for School Counseling as well as the Common Core Standards.  I look forward to continuously inspiring the school counseling profession!

Lesson - 1/1/14
Being the New Year, it seems appropriate to introduce a lesson on reflection.  For many students it is a blank slate to refocus on academic or personal/social success.  Reflection can assist in setting or achieving goals.  I would recommend using this lesson with high school or middle school students.   The written piece is just a suggested format to deliver the activity.  Materials, methods and assessments can be different and I would love to hear your suggestions!